The Land of Pain Preview
The Land of Pain Preview
If you love horror as much as I do, I suggest you play this genuinely scary demo without delay. When The Land of Pain is released, you can bet I'll be there.
Posted: 07/23/17 | Category: Preview | Developer: Alessandro Guzzo | Platform: Windows

Genre: First-person survival horror
Expected release date: 2017
Demo released:
May 31, 2017

My Faith Has Been Restored
 

The Land of Pain (I love that title) is an upcoming survival horror game for Windows. One-man indie developer Alessandro Guzzo has created it with CryEngine coupled with photogrammetry technology.1 The result is an intricate and detailed game world.

The game is to be released on Windows sometime in 2017. To say I'm looking forward to it is an understatement. This is a sneak peek via the demo, which lasts approximately 30 minutes if played straight through. I stopped frequently to closely examine my surroundings, so it took me considerably longer.

When I was approached to write a preview, I thought: Ho-hum...probably another horror game that isn't scary. Z-z-z-z-z. Well, I'm happy to report that I couldn't have been more wrong.

Mr. Guzzo knows exactly what he's doing. Bless you and thank you, sir. You have an accomplished understanding of the nature of horror. I've waited years for the kind of game you have created. You've restored my faith in the genre. 

Mechanics
 

The Land of Pain takes place in an open-world format. Navigation is accomplished via keyboard (WASD) and mouse. The controls in the demo can't be re-mapped. According to Alessandro, more options will be available in the final version. (I vote for optional arrow keys. All through the demo I kept automatically reaching for the up-arrow and wondering why I wasn't going anywhere...)

There are no user-initiated saves. Instead, the game creates checkpoints at various intervals. They seem to occur quite often, precluding the need to replay large chunks of the game.

Additionally, there is no inventory. You pick up, carry and use items one-at-a-time. The player-character conducts an inner dialog that's represented in text, and also keeps a journal. There's no spoken dialog...unless you include screaming. Heh. 

The Story, So Far...
  

The Land of Pain is played in first-person. As the game begins, I find myself in an idyllic woodland setting. The sun is shining through the trees. Autumn is arriving and some of the leaves have turned. Ambient sounds of nature surround me. It's quite peaceful. The background music, which is beautiful, is played on strings with just a hint of melancholy.

I'm en route to a cabin I've inherited from my late father to get away from the stress of life. Finding it takes awhile. I ultimately reach my destination and discover it's next to a small lake that's teeming with life. Even though the weather's a little chilly, I've just taken quite a hike and the water looks inviting. I go for a swim. Ahhhh...

Feeling refreshed, I enter the cabin and light a fire. Then I head to a nearby well to get some water. On the way back, I see something that's going to change my life entirely. A huge, glowing orb with a reflective surface has appeared outside the cabin. It's throwing off some sort of mist or smoke and makes a low-pitched rumbling sound.

The orb looks quite fascinating. Is it real? I circle around it without getting too close. I scale some rocks to view it from a different vantage point. Yep, it's real.

This brings to mind the first appearance of the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The orb is jarringly out of place here. I don't know what to make of it. It's quite mesmerizing. Where did it come from? I wonder what it does? (I picture Mr. Kubrick looking down on the scene and nodding his head in approval.)

I move closer. It's really quite beautiful. It doesn't appear threatening. Hmmmm... I stare at it for awhile. It just sits there. Okay -- the orb hasn't done anything to me, yet for some reason I'm afraid of it. Why? Because I have no idea what it might do, that's why. What I'd like to do is go back into the cabin, shut the door and forget I ever saw the thing. Then maybe it would go away.

I'm starting to get on my own nerves. I need to stop being a wuss and get on with things. The game tells me to touch the orb. Do I have to? Yeah, I suppose I do. I take a deep breath, reach out, touch it, and...

From Relative Tranquility to High-End Fear in Five Seconds
 

O...M...G. I am ripped from my surroundings and thrown into a reality that's completely foreign to me -- one that's ominous, dark, rainy and foggy. I'm locked in a cage between two electrically-charged towers. (So much for the stress-relief I'd been seeking...)

I'm able to escape the cage. Now what? I need to find some help. What is this place? Why am I here? What's happened to me?

I tentatively start to explore my surroundings. The landscape is thick with trees, rocks and vegetation. It appears to have footpaths, although discerning them is sometimes difficult in the rain and gloom. The atmosphere is palpably oppressive.

Recalling the length of time it took to find the cabin, I start noting things -- an oddly-shaped boulder or distinctive-looking tree, for instance -- that might identify where my exploration is taking me. It would be easy to get lost should I need to find my way back. A combination of eerie music and low-pitched noise accompanies me.

I hear something that sounds like two pieces of metal being scraped across each other. Out of the corner of my eye, I see what appears to be a humanoid figure. Ack! It's just part of a rock formation. I see another such figure. It's only a misshapen tree. What I think is a big insect turns out to be a clump of soggy vegetation. A giant head is only a big boulder.

TheLandOfPainPreviewInTxtImg

What an inspired environment for a horror game. When one is unable to see things clearly, one's surroundings can appear downright sinister. And just because it's easy for me to imagine things that aren't really there, I'm aware that the next thing I see could be the genuine article.

As I continue my exploration, I hear a loud, prolonged screech. It literally makes me cringe. I finally come across a house with a light shining in an upstairs window. There's a locked electrical shed close by. Maybe I can find help here.

I'm able to open the house's front door and peer in. It's completely dark except for a shard of light in a far corner that appears to be shining down from the room above. I'm not at all sure I want to go in there. Any number of things could be waiting for me. Things to whom I might resemble a snack.

I'm being a wuss again. I gather up my courage, step into the darkness and brace myself for something awful. Nothing happens. I find a light switch and see that I'm in a fairly normal-looking room. There are no hungry monsters. Man, do I feel dumb.

I find a page of notes concerning the discovery of an ancient underground machine and an encoded book that could contain the machine's operating instructions. What kind of world is this? 

Access to the second level is accomplished via a ladder, but there's one problem: the ladder is broken. I need to find another way to get up there. I see nothing I can use, so out I go into the rainy gloom for more exploring. I come across a few more structures in various stages of decline. None of the doors will open.

Ah, here's one that appears intact. It's smaller than the cabin. Oh crap, there's relatively fresh-looking blood all over the ground and on one of the outer walls. A pool of blood has formed in front of the door. Something is in it. At first, it resembles human arms/hands. I get closer and crouch down. Now, I see a serpent surrounded by the remains of small animals. Or maybe it's just moss and tree leaves. Whatever the case, it looks awful.

Do I really want to know what's beyond that door? NOPE. In an effort to avoid trying to open it, I decide to circle around the structure. It's a bad decision and I end up in a very dark area wedged in among some trees. I try crouching down. Another bad decision. Not only can I not move, I'm stuck in crouch position. The only option I appear to have is to load the most recent save.

Luckily, I'm plopped down close to where I'd been when I became stuck. Okay, wussie, it's time to put on your big-boy pants. I return to the door, screw my eyes shut and click. It's locked. Now don't I feel silly?

I hear something moving in the bushes. I no longer feel silly. In fact, I think I'll leave now. A short distance away, I locate a ladder that isn't broken. I notice the envronment has gotten darker, and my character mentions looking for a light source. (I'm unable to find one; I imagine it will be added later.)

As I lug the ladder back to the house (am I even going in the right direction?), I see the remains of another small structure. As I approach it, I disturb some birds that fly up out of the ruins. I hear more rustling in the bushes. I resist the temptation to run blindly away, as doing so would surely get me lost. Remaining as calm as possible, I keep moving. I reach the house, climb up to the second floor and...

Oh yuck. This is disgusting! Who would do such a thing...and why? My character's heart starts pounding and his breathing becomes shallow. The scene, which I won't describe in detail, is illuminated only by candles. There's blood everywhere. As with the blood I've already encountered, it looks fresh.

I see a small model representation of a strange, tentacled creature. (Paging Mr. Lovecraft.) I find more bizarre notes. I hear a slow, guttural sucking sound behind me. It makes my skin crawl.

Okay, time to go now, goodbye. I hurry back downstairs, see a fast-moving shadow and nearly have a heart attack. Hey, wait...that's my shadow. Good grief. I really must get out of here. As I step outside, I hear an agonized cry and see a body flung across the footpath a short distance away. I stand there as my brain temporarily short-circuits.

I cautiously approach the body. This is no normal body. Something has been...er...done to it. Something bad. I look closer and see that its eyes are still open. Even though I'm fairly sure it's dead, it seems to be looking at me. I stand there and gawk at it. I discover it possesses a key, which I take.

Okay, I'm getting mad now. Enough of this crap! I'm tired of feeling afraid, and I'm going to look for whoever did this. (Interesting how intense anger can cause one to temporarily lose all semblance of survival instinct.) I cross the path and climb up into an area that approximates the location from which the body was thrown. The area is extremely dark. I poke around until the game displays an "Explore" prompt. Okay, explore!

My character says something along the lines of: "Are you crazy? Do you want to risk ending up like that poor dead person?" I lose the anger and go back to being scared. I set out looking for a door to which the key might belong. It's really dark now; I can barely see where I'm going in spots. More horrid sounds come out of the woods.

I finally find the correct door. And wouldn't you know? It's the one with all the blood around it. I really don't want to unlock it, but I tell the wuss to shut up and do it anyway. The door swings open, and...the demo ends. (No-o-o-o! I want more!!) I'm left with an impressive case of frayed nerves and a seriously elevated heart rate.

In Conclusion...
 

Alessandro Guzzo has crafted an oasis of true horror in a desert littered with the remains of failed jump scares left by other so-called horror games. Further, the demo drew me in so effectively that I felt I was actually there. As I played, the real world around me faded far into the background.

Playing this demo, which is available for free on Steamhas been a supremely satisfying gaming experience. If you love horror as much as I do, I suggest you play this genuinely scary gem without delay. 

I have no reason to believe that the full version of the game won't live up to the promise of the demo. When The Land of Pain is released, you can bet I'll be there.

_________________________________________ 

1 Photogrammetry technology involves the use of special software to create 3D game assets from photographs of real-life settings. This renders immersive worlds that are detailed and organically believable. The technology is also used in many other fields such as geology, topographic mapping, engineering and architecture.

Trailer:
 

 

System Requirements
 
MINIMUM PC:
OS: Windows 7/8/10 (64-bit OS required)
Processor: Dual core 2.8 GHz
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: GTX 460 1GB/Radeon 5850 1GB
DirectX: Version 11
Storage: 12 GB available space
 
Specials from Digital Download
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